Yanis Varoufakis: Why I voted NO to the “Prior Actions”

Yanis Varoufakis has come in for much criticism by some Greeks and non-Greeks alike for the way he conducted negotiations in the Eurogroup earlier this year. He has been accused of many things both by commission and omission. And it did not stop after he resigned as Finance Minister. The onslaught is relentless. You can call him what you like, but coward or traitor are two labels that will never stick. And I will tell you why!

I guess that it is just not possible to take on the task that he did and expect to please everyone. I have never had any doubts about Yanis’ abilities or conduct at any point. Once or twice, I did wonder about the strategy that he was using and I agonised over whether, in the end, he would be the one to sign the document of “surrender”. True to his word, he did not.

And his resignation was not an act of cowardice or defeat. It was an act of honesty and integrity. In a post on his blog, soon after announcing his entry into Greek politics, he stated very clearly what principles would guide his actions. And he has never wavered.

It is my belief that, as long as Yanis remains involved in Greek politics, he has a very important part to play in the future of Greece. In addition, I also do not believe that he remains involved for any fame or glory. Being so close to the front-line has meant placing himself so totally in the line of fire, sacrificing his privacy and personal freedom and exposing himself to severe criticism. Please, you Greek defeatists, don’t talk to Yanis about patriotism!

That said, I believe that we need to continue to follow each and every action of his to be able to fully understand the evolving political scene in Greece. Only if and when Yanis thinks that he can make no further contribution, do I believe that he will withdraw, just like he has done before. And rightly so. Until then folks, hold on to your seats, it’s still going to be a bumpy ride.

Soon after Alexis Tsipras agreed to give in to the Troika, one of the first defining moments occurred in the Greek parliament. A vote was required to proceed with the”prior actions” to enable Tsipras to conclude the bailout settlement with the Eurogroup. An article that was first published by EfSyn.gr in Greek was then translated into English by ThePressProject and was published on their website. In the article, Yanis explains the reasons why he voted “no” on 16 July 2015.

I decided to come into politics for one reason: to support Alexis Tsipras in his fight against debt serfdom. On his behalf, Alexis Tsipras honoured me in conscripting me for one reason: a particular understanding of the crisis based on the rejection of the Papakonstantinos dogma; namely, the view that given a choice between anarchic bankruptcy and toxic loans, the latter is always preferable.

It is a dogma I rejected as being a standing threat, which helped enforce policies that guarantee permanent bankruptcy and, eventually, lead to debt serfdom. On Wednesday night, I was asked in the parliament to chose between (a) espousing the aforementioned dogma by voting in favour of the document that our “partners” imposed on Alexis Tsipras in the Euro Summit by putschist means and unimaginable aggression, or (b) say “no” to my Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister asked us “Is the blackmail real or make-belief?” expressing the hideous dilemma that would burden all in everyone’s’ own consciousness – his too. Clearly, the blackmail was real. Its “reality” first hit me when on the 30th of January, J.Dissjenbloem visited me in my office to present me with the dilemma “memorandum or closed banks”. We knew from the beginning just how merciless the lenders would be. And yet we decided on what we kept repeating to each other during those long nights and days at the PM’s headquarters:
“We are going to do all it takes to bring home a financially viable agreement. We will compromise but not be compromised. We will step back just as much as is needed to secure an agreement-solution within the Eurozone. However, if we are defeated by the catastrophic policies of the memorandum we shall step down and pass on the power to those who believe in such means; let them enforce those measures while we return to the streets.”

The Prime Minister asked on Wednesday “Is there an alternative?” I estimate that, yes, there was. But I shall not dwell on that now. It is not the appropriate time. What is important is that on the night of the referendum the Prime Minister was determined that there was no alternative course of action.

And that is why I resigned, so that I would facilitate his going to Brussels and coming back with the best terms he could possibly deliver. But that does not mean that we would be automatically committed to enforcing those measures no matter what they were!

The Prime Minister, on Wednesday’s parliamentary meeting asked us to decide together, to share the responsibility. Fair enough. But how? One way would be to act, all together, as we had said time and again we would in case of defeat. We would declare we had been compromised, announce that in our hands we held a deal we considered non-viable and ask all those politicians that judged the agreement to be even potentially viable, regardless of their parties, to form a government and enforce the measures.

The other way would be to do as the Prime Minister suggested: protect the first left government, be it by enforcing an agreement – the product of blackmail – that the Prime Minister himself considers impossible.

Both aspects of the dilemma were equally merciless for all of us. As Alexis Tsipras rightly announced, no one has the right to pretend as if the dilemma is burdening their own conscience any more than any other’s – be it the Prime Minister or some other member of the government. Accordingly, this by no means implies that those who decided that the government should enforce the “impossible” agreement were led by a stronger sense of responsibility that those of us who reckoned that we should quit and leave the enforcement of the deal to those politicians that believe the deal to be enforceable.

Euclid Tsakalotos flawlessly captured the reality of it all while addressing the Parliament; he said that those who believe that the government of SYRIZA must not be charged with the task of enforcing this deal have arguments just as strong as those who believe that the government of SYRIZA owes it to the people to enforce this bad deal so that an anarchic bankruptcy be avoided.

None of us is more “anti-memorandum”, but neither is any of us more “responsible”. Simply enough, when you find yourself at so dreary a crossroad, under the pressure of the Unholy Coalition of International Power, it is acceptable that some comrades will chose one way and some the other. Under these circumstances, it would be criminal for one side to label the others “compromised” and for the other to label the former “irresponsible”.

At the current moment, in the midst of sensical disputes, the unity of SYRIZA and the people who believed in us, handing us that grant 61,5%, is the main goal. And the only way to ensure this is by recognizing each other’s arguments, bearing in mind as an axiom that the opposing side has intentions that are just as good, responsible and revolutionary.

That being said, the reason why I voted “NO” last Wednesday is simple: we should have handed the power, as we had said we would, to those who can look in the people’s eyes and say what we cannot utter: “The deal is tough but it can be enforced in such a way that will leave room for hope that we might recover and reverse the humanitarian catastrophe”.

The left government cannot promise Europe what it knows it cannot deliver. The ultimate asset that the government of SYRIZA needs protect is the promise we would repeatedly give throughout our visits to the European capitals: In contrast to the others, we shall not promise anything (e.g. a certain primary surplus) that cannot be accomplished. On the other hand, the left government has no right to pillage any longer the victims of a five year long crisis without, at the very least, being able to answer in the affirmative the question: “Have you at least compensated for the recessionary measures?”

Many of my colleagues ask: “Is it not better for us to be in charge? We that care for the people and have good intentions targeting corruption and oligarchy?” Yes, it is better. But what tools have we left to work with? The decision of the Euro Summit establishes and furthers the complete lack of social control over the banks while society will be burdened with a further 10-25 bn of debt to support them.

And to make matters worse, we have the creation of an uber-HRADF (Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund) that is going to take once and for all complete control of all public assets, depriving the Hellenic Republic of all managerial benefits. And exactly how is it that we shall control austerity when the troika, with a plain liner from the ELSTAT (Hellenic Statistical Authority) –we gave over the control of this on Wednesday– is going to single-handedly determine the primary surplus?

And when the harsh reality of the results of this newly found austerity dawns upon society, when young and old alike either take to the streets or stay at home and rot in despair in the face of such measures, those people – the people we have been speaking for all along – who in the political scene is going to represent them then? Can it be that same party that brought these very measures before the Parliament? Measures which the well-meaning ministers are forced to defend to the parliament and media while being ridiculed by the anti-memorandum opposition?

“But are you not just serving Schauble’s plan when you vote against the deal?” I am asked. And I reply with a question of my own: “Are you sure that the agreement to these measures is not part of Schauble’s plan?”

Note the following:

► The latest IMF report that calculates dept over 200% of GDP, essentially forbidding the IMF to give out new loans;
► ESM’s demand, as per Schauble’s command, that there will be new loans from the IMF to Greece;
► A Greek government passing reformations which not only does it not trust but openly considers the result of blackmail;
► A German government that passes through Bundestag an agreement for Greece that it already, from the start, characterises as untrustworthy and failed.
Do you, dear reader, not concur that the above facts are powerful allies of Schauble’s? Is there really any safest means for the country to be shut out from the Eurozone that this non-viable deal that grants the German Finance Minister time and reasons to plan the Grexit he much desires?

‘Nough said. My judgment led me to vote against the current agreement, believing, as I still do, that the Papakonstantinos dogma is to be rejected. On the other hand, I respect fully those colleagues of mine who held differently. Neither am I the more revolutionary/ethical one nor are they the more responsible ones. Today what we are judged for is our ability to protect with all our powers our unity, comradeship and collectivity while retaining our right to differ.

To conclude, let me note a philosophical hew of the dilemma that burdens the conscience of everyone of us; is there a time when we may allow the idea that certain things should not be done in our name, transcend utilitarianism? Is this, such a time?

There are no right answers. Just an honest intention to respect the answers our comrades are giving, even if they disagree with ours.”


About Peter Smith

A "foot-soldier" in the wider Post Capitalism Movement. First task - keep spreading the words of change, hope & inspiration.
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One Response to Yanis Varoufakis: Why I voted NO to the “Prior Actions”

  1. Pingback: Yanis Varoufakis: “Why I Voted ‘YES’ Tonight” | Thoughts on European Politics & Economics

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